Access to pasture is not enough to make pasture-raised chicken
A recent news release announced the formation of a chicken company that claims to be the only company at scale to raise slower growing heirloom chickens in an integrated pasture-raised model. The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) would like to offer the poultry community a better understanding of what the current pastured poultry community looks like and what it really means to be pasture-raised.
Pasture-Raised Chicken Is Movement Based
To provide clarity, pasture-raised poultry describes a farming method that builds on the core idea of outdoor production and flock movement. The simplified version is that the chickens or turkeys are raised outside in portable shelters; the shelters and the flock are moved to fresh pasture regularly, allowing the previously grazed area to rest and regenerate.
In modern chicken company marketing (and some third-party certifications), you will see terms like “outdoor access” or “access to pasture.” These phrases warn the consumer of a non-pasture raised method of production. Visual inspection provides the verification. If you see a fixed location confinement animal feeding operation (CAFO) style house with a few doors around the building opening into a small fenced in area, you’re not looking at a pastured poultry model. Those types of facilities meet the USDA definition of free range (read more about the difference).
The distinction among the models must be swift and clear for consumers because it is the movement-based model that puts the birds outside on the grass in the sunshine. This builds nutrition in the chicken and eggs. Movement-based pastured poultry ensures healthy chicken that can be raised without coccidiostats or other antibiotics. The model of regular movement followed by a period of rest regenerates the land by building soil and improving fertility.
In other words, the difference that consumers expect are a result of the farming model. When chicken and egg companies short-circuit the pasture raised model by not incorporating flock movement or real outdoor production, they short circuit difference. Consumers are left paying the price.
A Diverse Pasture-Raised Poultry Community
In January 2019, independent pastured poultry farmers from 36 states, two Canadian provinces, and Haiti attended the APPPA Professional Pastured Poultry Conference in Greenville, TX. At that meeting, you could find farmers who were raising broilers, layers, turkeys, heritage birds and commercial birds. You could find producers at a variety of scales including farmers raising 1,000 birds or 300,000 or any number in between. There were farmers, feed manufacturers, breeders, processors, marketers, and distributors.
Inside the diverse APPPA membership, we have farmers raising slower growing broilers in a pasture raised model for processing in an on-farm USDA facility. There are on-farm processors working in exempt facilities. Some APPPA members have been refining nationwide mail order shipping as significant sales channels.
There are APPPA member farms raising fast growing hybrids, heritage breeds, and the slower growing hybrids in between. The diverse configuration of farms that comprise the pasture raised chicken and egg community is too difficult to name inclusively. That diverse community of APPPA farmers, however, is firmly rooted in the movement-based pasture raised model of farming.
Access to Pasture Does Not Equal Pasture-Raised
Pastured poultry farmers and members of APPPA have worked hard to cultivate the pasture raised chicken and egg difference over the last 20+ years as an association. The farmers who spend a lifetime perfecting their craft demand that pasture-raised chicken and eggs means more than “access to pasture.” Access alone is not good enough to capitalize on the decades of innovation inside the community.
American Pastured Poultry Producers Association has been advocating for pastured poultry production, processing, and consumption since its founding in 1997. We encourage farmers to keep the model movement based. We encourage consumers to watch the “Pastured Poultry: Better Way Forward” and view the Pastured Poultry Consumer Buyers Guide.
Fri, March 22, 2019 2:28 PM Author Anonymous